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Fillenwarths of Britt, Iowa
Posted by: Richard Rhode (ID *****1577) Date: February 11, 2005 at 07:12:52
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Extract from book "Recollections of Britt, Iowa" published 1978 by the Britt Centennial Committee, pp. 42-43:
1978 marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Fillenwarth (George) in Britt.
Peter Fillenwarth arrived in 1879, Frank Fillenwarth in 1883, and the John Fillenwarth family came in 1892.
All the Fillenwarths came from Monona, Iowa, their parental home. Each purchased land in the Britt area, and all worked for a time in the haying industry.
Later George Fillenwarth went into stock buying and Peter Fillenwarth operated a butcher shop and meat market for a number of years. After the death of Peterís wife in the early nineties, he left Britt. While in Britt, he built the residence long owned by John Spalla and which is now the Norman Weiland home at 420 First Street Southeast.
John Fillenwarth was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in 1850. Four years later his father, Peter Fillenwarth, Sr., and his uncle Chris Fillenwarth left Indiana, following a stage route west on foot because they had no money for stage fare. After ferrying across the Mississippi River, they reached McGregor, Iowa. They continued traveling west, keeping to the woods and water. Peter Fillenwarth, Sr., built a long [sic] cabin in the Monona area. He then sent for his wife and two sons, John and Chris. The brother, Chris Fillenwarth, went on to Nebraska which was opening up for settlement.
In the spring of 1892, the John Fillenwarths and their three children, Clara, William, and Arthur, moved to Britt. They purchased the farm south of Britt, long known as the Heimendinger farm. Some of the buildings they erected, including the house, still stand. Ten years later the family moved into Britt and Mr. Fillenwarth became known as one of the financiers of Britt.
Frank Fillenwarth was born in Clayton County, Iowa, in 1862. When he was twenty-one, he homesteaded at Highmore, South Dakota. Four months later he came to Britt in 1883, and purchased the NEľ of Section 20, Erin Township, at fifteen dollars an acre and paid seven percent interest on borrowed money.
In the early years, Frank worked in the hay fields. He owned a small hay press which was operated by two horses and several men. The men often worked in sub zero weather and ate frozen dinners thawed on the tines of a fork over open fires. Sometimes the men became lost in the dark while returning home from work. There were no roads or lights to guide the way. A dim lamp in some window in a sparsely settled area was always a welcome sight.
After the depression of 1893-1897, Mr. Fillenwarth farmed. He married Ann Jane Ward, who came to Hancock County in 1882. The couple retired to a home in Britt in 1926. They were the parents of Vincent and Margaret Fillenwarth.
Three times Mrs. Fillenwarth saw Drainage Ditch No. 8 worked on. The first time was in the mid-nineties when it was dug with oxen powered machines, the second time was in the early part of this century when horse power was used, and the final time was in the late forties when gas powered machinery did the work.
Peter Fillenwarth, Sr., father of the four Fillenwarth sons and the daughter, who settled in Britt, also came to Britt after the death of his wife in 1903 and made Britt his home until his death in 1907.


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